I have a confession to make.  For years, I’ve suffered from holiday perfectionism.

It all started with needing to have the “perfect” Christmas tree.

I had to have the right amount of lights on it – meaning several strings of lights deeply set within the tree and several more strings of lights on the outside branches.  I remember clearly the moment my husband realized how crazy I was about it all.  He tried to help me early in our marriage by putting the lights on the tree himself.

Big mistake – because he didn’t do it “right”.  So, after unsuccessfully trying to get him to take them off and re-do it all, I re-strung the tree the right way.  Needless to say, it didn’t go over terribly well with my hubby and ended with us fighting.

And I didn’t stop there.

The packages under the Christmas tree had to have beautiful wrapping paper, with bows placed just right.  The colors and designs on the paper needed to go together, but not be too similar (I would spend hours searching for the perfect paper and bows).  And the bows were almost never the stick-on kind (they had to be the ones you make yourself).

I wasted a ton of money on wrapping paper and a ridiculous amount of time wrapping presents (and killed my back while doing so).

But that wasn’t the worst of it.  We often host Christmas.  Which allowed me to go crazy ensuring that I served a “flawless” meal.  I over-prepared to the point of exhaustion.

All of this left me devoid of any joy during the holiday season.  And wanting it to be over.

But then I realized something.  I had been playing the martyr.  Unfortunately, this realization didn’t hit me until last Christmas.  But thank goodness it did.

Because I put the joy back into the holiday season.

How I put joy back into my holidays

How and why did this change occur? Well, I’ve become more introspective – both because of this blog and because of my coaching (I learn so much from my clients).

Last year I found myself analyzing how I’d traditionally treated the holidays.  And I didn’t like what I found (it was embarrassing, to be quite honest).

Creating the “perfect” Christmas experience (whatever that means) was draining the life out of me and making me feel under-appreciated (which created a whole host of nasty emotions).  And it was completely and utterly unnecessary.

Let’s be honest, no one spent any time looking carefully at my wrapped packages other than me.  No one noticed (nor did they care about) how many lights I put onto the Christmas tree (truth be told, many of them could barely be seen).  And, although people enjoy my cooking (I think 😉), that wasn’t what people really cared about.

They wanted my company and comradery.  Which is, of course, what everyone wants most during the holiday season.  To be with those they love and enjoy their company.

So, last year, I decided to let go of being perfect and start looking at the holiday season like I did when I was a kid.  And I asked myself what needed to change to put a bit of that curious girl back into my holiday endeavors.

The answer was clear: I needed to let go

I did what I had time for (and gave me joy) and let go of the rest, without any shame or guilt.  And guess what?  Letting go was empowering.  It freed me from the shackles of perfectionism that I had placed on myself for so many years.

My presents were still pretty, but I used whatever paper we already had (I even used stick-on bows).  And it took me a fraction of the time it used to, freeing up time for other fun activities.  Plus, my back didn’t hurt so much from the experience.

Although I still put the lights on the tree (I’m not sure my hubby will ever help me with it again), I did it quickly without worrying about the “perfect” amount of lights.  And I finally allowed my boys to decorate the Christmas tree on their own.  All I had to do was help them when they needed it.

They had a blast and my tree looked lovely.  And, most importantly, a beautiful memory was created with them that I will never forget.  A memory that wouldn’t exist had I not let go.

I cooked what I could and didn’t worry about the rest.  I even planned for a reduced menu that wouldn’t require so much time in the kitchen.  For the first time in years, I didn’t stress about hosting and was able to enjoy myself the entire day – without exhaustion.

And I’m continuing to do the same this year (and having even more fun than last year).

What I learned by letting go

I learned that you cannot create “perfect” memories or situations.  When you strive so hard to make things perfect, you make yourself and those around you miserable.  But when you let go and let things happen naturally and spontaneously, that is when magic happens.

Think back to your fondest childhood memories.  I’m willing to bet that those moments resulted from spontaneity.

Perfect moments are never planned.  They’re imperfection is what makes them perfect.  An imperfect spontaneity that just happens.  Much like the memories that I now have because I let my kids decorate the Christmas tree.  Those are perfect memories that will forever be cherished.

What I now realize is that Christmas wasn’t making me stressed.  I was doing it to myself – all to create the “perfect” holiday that wasn’t even possible.  And the best part of learning this lesson is how it’s helped me throughout the year (because my perfection disorder didn’t appear only during the holidays).

It’s time for you to let go too

What about you?  I know I’m not the only person who’s fallen prey to holiday perfectionism.  It’s not too late to let go so you can start having some perfectly imperfect moments yourself.

To do that, I want you to commit to let go.  No more creating “perfect” moments.  Heck, no more creating moments at all.  Do what brings you joy – and only what you have time for and is a true priority for you (and if you need some help with how to prioritize and let go of the intense overwhelm that many of us get this time of year, check out my freebie designed to help you do just that).  And let go of the rest.

I want to hear from you in the comments below.  Tell me what you’re committing to let go of (and be specific about it, please).  Getting it out in the open will help keep you more accountable and make it real.  I promise that you’ll be giving yourself the best possible gift this holiday season by doing so.

Until next time…